Written by Steve Israel Thursday, 17 April 2014 08:22
Brian and Amy are your typical middle-class New Yorkers. They’ve worked hard to build a comfortable life for their three children in Hicksville, and hoped to remain there to be near family.
However, every year during tax season they are hit by a bill from the federal government that makes them question if they will be able to continue living in such a high-cost area. Their story is all too familiar, and I wanted proof that we need to change the federal tax code to account for New York families facing some of the highest costs of living in the country.
To get an answer, I asked Third Way, a centrist think tank focused on middle-class issues especially relevant to families in our area, to actually crunch the data on how much New Yorkers pay in federal taxes compared to similar families across the country. The report, “A Tale of Three Cities,” compared the effects of the federal tax code on three typical middle-class families—one from Hicksville, another from Akron, Ohio, and a third from McAllen, Texas.
The numbers were striking. The data shows that New Yorkers pay more in federal taxes because the federal tax code does not account for differences in wages and costs of living across different regions. This means that many New York families who are solidly middle class, but may make more on paper than similar families elsewhere, do not qualify for many income-based tax credits.
For example, a worker in low-cost, low-wage McAllen, Texas, can qualify for tax credits to help with his child care costs, while a similarly hard-working New Yorker, who may earn more, but also pays more for everything from gasoline to groceries, can’t access the same amount of benefits. Applying the same tax code to families in vastly different circumstances makes no sense—even a Quarter-Pounder at McDonald’s costs $1 more in Nassau County than it does in McAllen.
Even worse, in an expensive area like New York, a working-class family can end up owing thousands of dollars on its federal tax return, while a nearly identical family in low-cost McAllen can end up receiving thousands in return.
This glaring inequality is just plain wrong. Regional differences in costs of living should be accounted for in the federal tax code.
Two bills I’ve introduced would help level the playing field for New York taxpayers. The Tax Equity Act would adjust tax brackets for all areas with a higher cost-of-living than the national average, and the Student Loan Employment Benefits Act would allow those working to set aside up to $5,000 of their salary, tax-free, to repay their student loans. I am also drafting legislation that would index future tax credits to regional costs of living.
These common-sense measures will strengthen the middle class and lay the foundation for New York’s future. It’s time to give New York’s taxpayers like Amy and Brian the fairness they deserve.
The full Third Way Report can be viewed at www.israel.house.gov.
Sunday, 23 November 2014 00:00
The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) has frustrated commuters for years with it’s ridiculous fares, limited trains and constant problems, especially during the rush hour ride home.
Though the MTA is making an effort to add more trains to the schedule, that doesn’t ease the parking situation, which is operated not by the LIRR, but by individual municipalities in each town.
Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:00
After surviving the “Cold Blooded” episode last week, the eight remaining contestants on Ink Master faced off in a “Flash Challenge” testing their ability to use finesse. The tougher the situation, the more finesse an artist needs to create a masterpiece, and this week was no exception.
Artists were given five hours to tattoo amputees. The residual limb left behind after an amputation can be badly traumatized, unusually shaped and scarred. The artists were challenged to create a phenomenal tattoo on the residual limb to make these amputees love the part of their body they are missing. Although all of the contestants created beautiful designs, Bethpage’s Erik Siuda’s incorporation of the scar tissue and pre-existing tattoo into his design showed the most finesse.